The Art of Thriving instead of Surviving
While I have many other photography based blogs to write, I thought this the most pertinent to publish at this time.
Stress is running high in the population when it comes to the new operating conditions we find ourselves in. Understand that we humans have the tendency to survive, because there have been all kinds of real and imagined catastrophes in the recent and distant past and as a civilization we have persevered, as well we will this one.
You might, however, need to participate in good active and proactive measures to ensure you and your loved ones survival.
Respect the Situation for what it is
We have societal obligations to work within the prudent dictates of health agencies, and there is nothing terrible about keeping track of interactions with communal objects, learning to wash your hands correctly, and keeping enough distance between you and the bloom of someone else’s exhalation.
By having this awareness, we can help to stop spreading future viral and bacterial calamities.
Our office is officially closed, but we’re finding ways to work remotely just as effectively as within the four walls of the studio. This is now extending to social interactions for us as well, as we seek to include those physically separated from us in daily exchange. Last evening, we had a Skype dinner party with friends that live north of Pittsburg and it was great.. (I may have to improve my A/V situation here to involve multiple cameras and a solid microphone for future engagements.)
Take personal responsibility for your own health
You’re probably aware what you should be doing, but may not be doing it. If you know you should be doing it, do it. If you don’t know what you should be doing, here are some of the things that I know about that extend health and extend the vibrancy of life while you’re living it.
I’ve never really been a morning person, so the idea of getting a workout in at 5am ahead of my normal get the kids to school and work my workday has never really worked out for me. This change of normally scheduled programming is giving me the chance to start some fresh habits that benefit my aging body and by doing so, help to insulate me from the harm of any contagion because my body is ready for the fight, if it comes to my door.
Back in 2008 I accomplished the completion of the P90X workout program which was 6 days a week of intense 60-90 minute workouts for 90 days straight. Twice, all on 7am workouts. At that time I was working out in my studio and I lived upstairs from my studio, so getting to work was only a change to the hat I was wearing, not needing to fit my workout in the schedule down to the minute. Excuses, I know.
During that time, I was on active advertising shoots for the United States Marine Corps and found my exercise regimen beneficial when I was literally running through the woods of Quantico with three camera bodies and 7 lenses, keeping ahead of the recruits as they made it to their next training event. Even the drill instructors were moderately impressed.
I very much enjoyed having the strength to carry Speedotron packs at even arms-length without issue.
A petrified pigeon poop removal event above my gorgeous tongue & groove mahogany ceilings in our above the studio loft lead to a separated shoulder and an end to my 3rd run at P90X only three weeks into it the following year.
My job at CI isn’t nearly as physical as some of my freelance photography was, or even my darker days of working ‘unskilled labor’ while also teaching yoga. At 50 years of age now, I’m weaker than I was at 40, but am looking to change that now with the modified work schedule allotted to us through this pandemic.
Right now, I’m doing intense cardiovascular workouts, some of them including the philosophy of ‘running from the bear’, literally going all out for as long as I can and stopping whenever I can no longer keep that up. I feel great, I mean, really great.
There’s benefit to plodding along at a regular and continuous jog, but that hasn’t ever really been my game. I created a custom program on my machine of choice and at the levels I set, made it through 30 minutes with my heart rate running between 140 & 155 after the initial warming up. Once the pollen in Atlanta abates a bit, I have a glorious hill around the corner that is a decent challenge to sprint up without stopping.
Dr Joe Dispenza has a great idea that I’ll have to paraphrase, that meditation at the very least, gives you a break from being yourself. He has written the books, You Are the Placebo, Breaking the Habit of Being Yourself, and Evolve Your Brain. I’ve been aware of him for at least the last ten years and recently watched a new series on the Gaia network, Rewired, that I cannot recommend enough as he describes the latest findings in neuroscience and how we can literally create a new ‘you’ through the practice of undoing the portion of ourselves that does not help the greater being, the subconscious routines that drive 95% of our life.
On the inspiration of reacquainting myself with his work, a couple months ago I restarted a daily meditation practice. Practicing Yoga in the evenings is often a moving meditation for me, because when you’re at the heart of evolving your practice to be that next .04% better than you were the day before, you are mindless with no room for chattering monkeys or repetitive thoughts to intrude upon your calmness within the fire within the storm of exerting muscular proficiency in the many difficult-to-master yoga forms.
Meditation otherwise in the evening for me 7/10 times puts me to sleep. Often, I use the practice of meditation to go to sleep while in bed when cyclical thoughts are otherwise keeping me awake. I generally run on the philosophy that, at worst I’ll fall asleep and get the rest I need, even better, actively mediate before getting that next level of rest.
My daily practice until this current disruption had been to sit in my car for 15-30 minutes after dropping the kids and school but before walking into work. I found my days to consistently go much easier when I started that way, as it would undo any stress that had accumulated through having to Drill Sargent the kids to eat their breakfast, be dressed & ready to drive, as well as whatever Atlanta traffic surprises were in my path. (Comon people, a left turn signal before it’s self evident that you’re going to stop that lane, can save so much time and frustration for the people in back of you. Thank you.)
There is a great iPhone app called ‘Balance’ that is a near endless series of terrific guided meditation for beginning to intermediate meditators and as many apps do, provides some structure and time tracking so that any of you ‘gamers’ that like to raise your stats, can fall into a good habit while the program also caters specifically to you by periodically asking you question about your prior meditation.
Meditation is not only good for the clearing of your mind, but the reset also involves the quieting of you autonomic nervous system, bringing you down from the flight or fight response that many of us have accepted as our normal condition, and down into a place where you body can actually rest & heal when sleep isn’t involved.
Better than sleep, actually, because the calm state can last well into your working day when many wake up from sleep with anxiety about past or present and that can stick with them for the waking day.
Meditation invokes the power of living in the present moment, eyes wide open, all mental faculties online to discern and act on whatever is necessary without worry.
I have long been a proponent of increased Vitamin C intake, far in excess of the recommended daily allowance set inevitably by lobbying groups in D.C. In the past, when I got to the end of elaborately produced week+ of photography projects and marathon retouching sessions, I would get sick. The stress would keep me going and producing, but the moment that period ended, I would be flu-like sick for days to weeks after.
The change for me into rarely ever being sick was both understanding the nature of my autonomic nervous system, keeping me in ‘fight or flight’ and not allowing the time for dally incremental healing but also proper nutritional supplementation.
Here’s a great interview illustrating how Vitamin C can help all sorts of health situations:
Here’s a 60-Minutes episode from New Zealand that tells how Vitamin C was likely the life saving miracle cure to a dairy farmer’s advanced pneumonia.
• Become Superhuman
You’re not going to like this part. I don’t like this part, but I can’t dis-acknowledge that this is a thing.
For the last several years, I’ve been closing at least 3 showers a week with full cold from the faucet. My reaction varies from cursing like a sailor to a very Zen approach with my breathing not changing whatsoever, having already started a sequence of rhythmic full inhalation belly breaths to continue into the masochistic cold, where it’s up to me to rotate to keep shocking a new part of my body.
A few times, I get into the shower on full cold. This is not generally fun, but this morning I did it after my intense workout and it wasn’t bad at all, shocking, but not bad. (a day later, while editing this, I did it again well after my cool-down) The goal is to be able to get in the cold shower with limited physical preparation, because the survival instinct of your body is to ramp up all of its systems to prevent hypothermia and will help abate any disease trying to attack.
Wim Hoff is known as ‘The Iceman’ and holds a number of world records including being submerged in ice water for more than two hours without his core body temperature varying. Through his conditioning process, other people have replicated a number of his feats short of world records, demonstrating that his body isn’t some freak of nature, but that his training creates results that seem impossible at the outset.
I am starting his breathing method today. Who else is in?
• Never stop Learning / Beware of False Prophets
I have been studying in an autodidactic manner for the better part of the last two decades. In 2012, I had consumed every single TED talk that had been published to that time, mostly running in a window within the palettes of Photoshop while I was retouching projects.
To this day, whenever I’m doing ‘dumb’ labor or driving long distance, basically anything that isn’t active problem solving or verbal based, I have an earbud in and I’m listening to lectures, podcasts, interviews and educational productions to better learn about our world. While I may not be a master of any, I’m decently versed in myriad subjects.
When the news first started up regarding this Coronavirus Pandemic, I was naturally skeptical, knowing that the WHO (World Health Organization) in the past had conflicts of interest in crying wolf, because there were causal links demonstrating the sitting board members of that group also sat on boards of major pharmaceutical companies who would profit greatly if millions of government dollars were directed at the ‘cure’ to the pandemic d’jour. The CDC has also been implicated in coverups when a senior scientist there blew the whistle when he asserted he (and others) had been ordered to destroy test data that demonstrated harm to segments of our population by what they were otherwise labeling and touting as not only ‘generally safe,’ but necessary for health.
Mark Twain is have known to say, “History doesn’t repeat itself, but it often rhymes,’ and this is a profound statement. By studying the past and seeing how the population was steered into compliance by a threat that was or was not there, we can have a better sense of truth and fiction in real time.
“The conscious and intelligent manipulation of the organized habits and opinions of the masses is an important element in democratic society.
Those who manipulate this unseen mechanism of society constitute an invisible government which is the true ruling power of our country. …We are governed, our minds are molded, our tastes formed, our ideas suggested, largely by men we have never heard of.
This is a logical result of the way in which our democratic society is organized. Vast numbers of human beings must cooperate in this manner if they are to live together as a smoothly functioning society. …
In almost every act of our daily lives, whether in the sphere of politics or business, in our social conduct or our ethical thinking, we are dominated by the relatively small number of persons…who understand the mental processes and social patterns of the masses. It is they who pull the wires which control the public mind.”
–Edward Bernays – Propaganda (1928)
By means of ever more effective methods of mind-manipulation, the democracies will change their nature; the quaint old forms — elections, parliaments, Supreme Courts and all the rest — will remain.
The underlying substance will be a new kind of non-violent totalitarianism. All the traditional names, all the hallowed slogans will remain exactly what they were in the good old days. Democracy and freedom will be the theme of every broadcast and editorial […].
Meanwhile the ruling oligarchy and its highly trained elite of soldiers, policemen, thought-manufacturers and mind-manipulators will quietly run the show as they see fit.
– Aldous Huxley
Don’t necessarily negate or accept any single piece of information out there, the clearest truth often hides in small spaces, but so do the seeds of disinformation. Careful what you water.
• Be Prepared
Before the severity of this situation was known, I had the thought that if at the very least, if the scope of this caused people to count on themselves more than the available stock at the store down the street, that they would carefully and procedurally build a small surplus of necessary goods for their family so that in an upcoming event they would be more self sufficient, then not only would they be safe & healthy during whatever problem arose, but the people who do need the help the most have those societal institutions stocked and ready to provide.
When we lived in the country and we lost power, we had a generator. Still have that generator, but at that old country house, it didn’t provide enough amps to run the well pump. Lost power often enough that it made a lot of sense to have at least 20 gallons of water on hand for drinking, flushing toilets and if necessary, bathing.
A couple times in Atlanta we had disruptions to our water service that persisted for more than a day. You really don’t know how many times you count on water across the day until the tap is dry, so even in this city, I keep some water in reserve, it’s the thing you need the most of if civilization takes a dump, plus, staying hydrated helps to keep you healthy.
If things do head south, water filtration is the next thing you’ll need to have, because there may be available water around you, but I wouldn’t drink it unless you want a good bout of the green apple splatters. I recommend these filters as they can filter bacteria and even viruses and work by gravity feed. I’ve got one that can filter 14,000 gallons of water before the filters are toast, upgraded to remove Fluoride from our drinking water as well. (Perhaps the ADA should listen to toxicologists rather than their internal memos regarding the safety and efficacy of public fluoridation, but that’s a whole nuther subject)
• Be Grateful Everyday
Those who are reading this blog entry, we live in a time and place in the world where we likely have had personal, economic and physical struggles, but nothing to the extent that even prior generations in this country have endured, let alone the world as a whole.
I am humbled and grateful every day for my family, friends and co-workers, all of which I know I could trust with my life. I have cultivated a trusted support network where through give and take, I know that we will all can exist far beyond basic survival, even in the worst of times.
I am grateful for the clients that I can now call friends.
Peace and strength be with each and every one of you. – BK